When Krystal Kinney took the reigns as Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa’s beverage manager and sommelier in March, season was already humming along, wine lists and cocktail menus crafted. She was tasked to oversee the continuation of Eau’s luxe experience at the resort, ensuring everything ran seamlessly. But during the summer, as high season transitioned into long, lackadaisical Palm Beach days, Kinney got to business recreating the way the resort presented its wine and cocktail menus while creating a buzz with weekly events at Stir Bar that showcase the more creative side of wine and spirits.
“We stay miles away from the mainstream,” Kinney says in the bustling Stir Bar and Terrace—the heart of Eau Palm Beach’s grand lobby, home to weekly events like speed wine tastings on Thursdays. “That’s how we differentiate ourselves.”
Fresh, seasonal ingredients; boutique spirits; small-production organic wines; and a pull toward balance have made Eau one of the more intriguing watering holes on the easternmost edge of Palm Beach County. All of this harkens back to Kinney, who trained as a chef before finding her nose for wine, giving her an acute attention to detail when selecting varietals for the menu.
“I picked it up pretty easily,” Kinney muses, “I guess through my palate of tasting and loving food.” This love of food has helped guide a philosophy that balances wine with cuisine, where the two go hand-in-hand, not competing—which makes for an interesting task for a sommelier who works in a place with so many moving parts.
Like so many large-scale operations, where multiple restaurants and bars need to be regularly stocked with innumerable bottles, a tendency of complacency can arise. But under the guidance of Kinney, Eau stays a steady course of constant change. “I taste two to three days a week,” Kinney says, “and we switch the wine list in Stir and Temple Orange weekly. And when Angle opens [November 5], we’ll switch it weekly or bi-weekly, based on what Chef Travis [Robinson] is doing with his food. It’s ever evolving.”
To get the recipe for Krystal Kinney’s Blueberry Lavender Lunatic cocktail,
This change allows for guests to experience something new almost on a nightly basis while keeping abreast with the latest creations from boutique wineries and distilleries. Cocktails are created and change with seasonal ingredients, while the inclusion of craft beers differs from keg to keg. And wines are, well, the oil of the engine of Eau’s social hub: “I treat Stir like a wine bar,” she says, adding the list is curated in a very inclusive way. “My first love is French, but I am not prejudice to any grape varietal,” she says with smile. “I’m not picky.”
We spoke with Kinney about what’s new this fall, the perfect sip for sunset, lesser-known varietals, and her personal philosophy on food and wine pairings. For those who have not experienced Eau, stop in on a Thursday through October, when Kinney will host free speed wine tastings at Stir Bar and Terrace with four different seatings (5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.).
What are some under-the-radar varietals we should be drinking?
My personal favorite is Aglianico from Campania, Italy—I would like to see that come out a little more—and Franciacorta from Italy as well. It’s a sparking wine made the same way as Champagne from just outside Milan; it’s Champagne’s direct competition. You can find it at Total Wine [and More] and some ABC [Fine] Wines [and Spirits], but not a lot of people really know about them. You can tell by looking at the bottle that it is a sparkling wine, and it’s a little less expensive then Champagne, so people should definitely drink it.
What’s the perfect South Florida sunset wine for fall?
For sunset and lounging, I like a Vino Verde. It has a light effervescence and [is] very crisp, clean and refreshing.
What are some of the more interesting wines in the cellar?
I have Wisdom [B Wise Vineyards], which is a blend of red wine. It’s a beautiful label, very small production and all organic, and I have all of it in the state. I am very good friends with the rep [laughs].
It has Petite Sirah, which is one of my favorite varietals in California, as well as Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc gives that slight green pepper notes to it, while the Petite Sirah gives it a really spicy, campfire note. You could drink this with pizza, have it with steaks—it’s one of those blends that is very balanced while having every component someone would want in a red wine.
What’s your pairing philosophy?
I prefer to include wines that are balanced in acidy and tannins, not over alcohol, so it does not overpower the food. I believe wine is almost like the sauce with the food; it should never overpower the protein, never overpower the vegetables. It should be the perfect marriage and just blend with the food.
Blends are kind of artistic expression for the winemaker, almost like spicing food. It gives them options, whether it’s a blend of grapes or the oak they use.
What’s on tap for fall?
One of my bartenders really likes whiskey, so he’ll do some cocktails that are whiskey based. And we’ll use some craft spirits with those as well. One of my favorites is High West from Utah. It has some really nice blended whiskeys, in addition to some Scotch and some rye. It gives a really nice campfire smell to it, a smoky taste.
We’ll also do some stuff with apples and grapes—whatever fruits that will be in season. We’ve played around with a few different things, like ginger, ginger snaps [and] pomegranates.